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How AmeriHealth is Addressing Health Inequities in New Jersey

AmeriHealth

In the 30 years AmeriHealth has served the residents of New Jersey, we’ve put down plenty of roots, and we’ve come to care deeply about our members and our communities.

We’re embedded in the areas we serve. So we’re keenly aware that not all people enjoy the same access to health care or the same care outcomes. We wouldn’t be serving our members effectively if we didn’t do everything in our power to correct these inequities.

The scope of the problem

It’s no secret that there are large racial and ethnic differences in health outcomes in New Jersey. But, here are a few statistics that clearly illustrate this:

  • A 2021 analysis found that Black and Latino New Jersey residents experience far greater challenges than their white and Asian counterparts regarding overall health and access to care.
  • A 2023 report noted a 15-year difference in life expectancy between the majority-Black and Latino residents of Trenton and the majority-white population of Princeton.
  • Black non-Hispanic women in New Jersey are six times more likely to die from pregnancy-related causes than white women.

The reasons for these health gaps are myriad and complex — from unequal access to resources, to differences in how patients may be treated based on the color of their skin.

Health inequities don’t just affect those who are Black/indigenous/people of color either. Members of other marginalized populations — such as non-English speakers, individuals who are LGBTQIA+, or those who have disabilities — also experience more than their fair share of health challenges.

But health inequities of any kind are unacceptable, regardless of their causes or whom they affect. We all share a responsibility to eliminate these imbalances.

What we’re doing to overcome health inequities

At AmeriHealth, we’re committed to achieving more equitable health outcomes for our members and the communities we serve. Here are some of the ways we’re working to accomplish that.

Leveraging data to close care gaps

With more than 265,000 members, AmeriHealth has abundant data to help us identify and close gaps in care. For example, we can see that people living in certain ZIP codes have an especially high incidence of certain health problems. This helps us determine where to concentrate our efforts to improve access to care.

Focusing on areas where we can have a high impact

Some of the biggest health inequities we see in New Jersey are in maternal health, behavioral health, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and overall access to care. Therefore, we’ve engaged in a variety of initiatives to deal with these challenges, including:

  • Our Baby FootSteps® maternity program, which supports expecting mothers in achieving healthy pregnancies
  • Our contributions towards Virtua Health’s new Mobile Cancer Health & Screening Unit, which provides access to cancer screenings and other services in places where people need them most
  • Our collaboration with Thyme Care, giving additional support to members with a cancer diagnosis to help improve their health outcomes and overcome health inequities

Hands-on collaborations with health care providers

One of our most powerful tools for promoting health equity is our Population Health team. These specialists engage with doctors, hospitals, and community health centers to understand the challenges they face in providing high-quality care to all of their patients. Then our specialists collaborate with those health care providers to identify and implement solutions. The Population Health Team also sometimes reaches out directly to AmeriHealth members to provide them with support.

Creating a culture of diversity, equity, and inclusion

The AmeriHealth Diversity and Inclusion Council organizes discussions and learning sessions for our associates on a variety of topics such as microaggressions, unconscious bias, generational differences, and code-switching (interacting with people differently depending on the social context).

These conversations help our associates develop the awareness and cultural competency they need to treat every individual with respect, understand their health challenges, and offer effective, culturally appropriate solutions.

Eliciting member feedback to advance equity

To improve health outcomes, it’s important to understand what’s working, what isn’t working, and what we can do about it. That’s why we formed our Health Equity Advocacy Council (HEAC), in which we meet with AmeriHealth plan members four times a year to hear about their challenges in accessing care.

We’ve received a lot of excellent input this way to help inform our health equity strategy. We encourage more AmeriHealth members to join our HEAC and help us build a better future.

Proof we’re on the right track

In 2023, AmeriHealth became one of the first health plans in New Jersey to earn a Health Equity Accreditation from the National Committee for Quality Assurance (NCQA). This accreditation recognizes our commitment to addressing the root causes of health inequity. It supports what we’ve been doing to dismantle structural racism and create health justice for all.

But clearly there is a lot more work to be done. We’re currently planning many more efforts to move the needle on these unacceptable differences in access to care and health outcomes. I look forward to sharing these solutions with you as they come to fruition.

Mike Munoz

Mike has overall responsibility for profit-and-loss management and business operations for the AmeriHealth health plan. Before that, he led the Sales and Marketing organization, enhancing product offerings, improving broker engagement, and growing brand awareness. An active leader in local New Jersey communities, Mike sits on numerous boards, including the Camden Community Partnership, Special Olympics New Jersey, and the United Way of Greater Philadelphia & Southern New Jersey.